Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Jerusalem Schools

(Kasey here)


School at JHS started on Monday for the 7-9th graders, and Tuesday for the 10th-12th graders. All they had to do on those days was show up at 9am to pick up their books, see their classrooms, and attend an assembly where Shane gave them all a talk about the rules of the school.

They were enthusiastic and happy, and the 10th-12th graders were just plain noisy.

One of the other volunteers, Nick, and I are ‘sponsoring’ the 9th graders. It basically means that we’re their buds and stick up for them, and help them out with their school-wide competitions. Unfortunately, so far, the 9th graders are the grade that I’ve found the most annoying. Lol. We’ll see how well-behaved they can be this year… apparently they were a wee bit hellish last year too.

Our class schedule was all worked out, and it looked pretty cool, with the one exception that I would be teaching life science instead of earth science. That sucked, because I had been looking forward to being enthusiastic about the earth. I was going to be teaching life science to the 7th graders, physical science to the 9th graders, biology to the 10th graders, and chemistry to the 11th graders.

However. A couple of days before school started, our lovely principal found out something very unfortunate. The seniors are required by the government to take an extra Arabic class this year, which means that the entire schedule had to be completely reworked from scratch. YOU try and fit a whole extra class in the same amount of time in a school day.

It finally got worked out, but our classes got shifted around. The good news was that I got earth science. The bad news was that I went from teaching 4 classes to 5, one of them being Life of Christ, which is a 9th grade class. Imagine my joy when I realized that I’d gone from one class with the 9th graders plus being their sponsor… to having 2 classes with them PLUS being their sponsor.

The way that the high school is working this year is a bit different. They had enough problems with the kids last year that they are no longer allowed to rotate to their classes. They are self-contained, meaning they are in one class, all day, all year. Even better, they’ll have assigned seats so we can tell who burned a hole in their desk this year. I bet you can guess just how happy they all were to find out about that. Better: the teachers are now the ones who have the 5 minutes between class to talk to the students after class ends, run to their office, grab stuff for the next class, and then be in that class before the bell rings. Not so much fun.

Still, it’ll be easier to keep people from, say, pooping in the garbage (as the 8th graders informed me had happened last year) because we’ll know where everyone is at all times.

Since they are self-contained, and some of the grades are fairly large, each grade is split into two classes, and we have two teachers teaching the same subject: one in each class. I share earth science and life of Christ with Nick, and physical science, biology, and chemistry with Mustafa. I do the lesson plans for earth science and chemistry, and Nick and Mustafa cover life of Christ, physical science, and biology. At least, that’s how Mustafa and I covered it this week. We’ll see about next time. Nick and I will always stick with the same classes.

The schedule during Ramadan is different, because the kids are out of school by 1:30. That gives them time to get home, because most of them are helping with dinner by 4. These people don’t eat less during Ramadan. In fact, they probably eat more. But they do it in 2 great chunks (before sun-up, and after sun-down). They prepare feasts every day.

So my schedule this month goes like this:

7:30 – be at school, prepping for classes (and waiting for Jon to get off the computer and leave so I can do my work :P)

8am – school starts. Any student who is out of their seat when the bell rings is written up as tardy. This is when I have biology with the 10th graders.

8:40 – 2nd period starts. I have earth science with the 8th graders.

9:15 – 2nd period ends. 9:20-9:30 they all have homeroom (which is official attendance-of-the-day time). I have 3rd period (9:35-10:10) off.

10:15 – 4th period. On Mondays and Wednesdays I have physical science with the 9th graders.

10:50 – the bell rings and they have break until 11:25 or so. Normally during Ramadan, anyone observing Ramadan would be outside so they don’t have to be around the people who are eating in the canteen. Unfortunately apparently no one was around this summer to make sure things got done, and they’re still doing construction on an awning outside, so every student is stuck in the canteen. VERY unfair.

All teachers are required to be on break duty, which means we’re patrolling the canteen making sure things don’t get out of control.

11:35 – 5th period. I have chemistry with the 11th graders.

12:15 – 6th period. I have physical science with the 9th graders.

12:50 – this is when 7th period begins, but I have it off, so I retreat to my office and relax the day off.

Once Ramadan is over, things will be rescheduled and each class will extend by at least 5 minutes. 35 minutes for a class is almost no time at all. It sucks.

AND, in case you didn’t know, school here is weird. Friday is an Arab holy day, so we have school Monday-Thursday, and Saturday. Bizarre.


Sort-of real school started on Wednesday. That was the day that all the students in grades 1-12 were required to show up. And, as I now know to fully expect, absolutely nothing was ready. We were handed our lesson plans and a list of the rules 2 seconds before class started. We were lucky that we had that much.

Wednesday was the most boring day for the poor students, because every single teacher that they had all day was required to repeat the rules to them over and over and over, and grill them on it until not one of them could say they’d never heard the rules before. They are also posted in their rooms, so they can’t say they’ve never seen them. These are the precautions that we have to take with these kids, because apparently, given the chance, they will decimate the entire school.


Thursday, we told them about what we expected of them in each class. I spent the day explaining what a science journal was and why I wanted them to keep one over and over. It was a bit monotonous, but I enjoyed the fact that I only had 4 classes instead of 5. I have a feeling that Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday will be my favorite days.

On Thursday morning, we all got an email from Shane that said we had a quick meeting at the end of school. We all assumed that it was a “Yey, we survived our first week!” meeting, because on either Monday or Tuesday, Ross had decided that we teachers deserved a break after working so hard the week before, and we got Saturday off.

That’s sort of what it was. Shane was running the meeting, and it was fun. There’s this one dude that speaks up at every opportunity whether we need to hear from him or not, and he did so on this occasion, but we figured whatever, we’d be going home soon anyway. And then Shane let Ross talk. And Ross’s talks aren’t short. So we finally finish the meeting half an hour after I told Jon to pick me up, and I start to head out of the room. Right before I get away, I hear someone say “religion classes” and “with Ross.” I vaguely remember that Ross wanted to talk to the religion teachers. And unfortunately, with the new schedule, that includes me.

So not only do I have to sit in a meeting for a class I don’t want, but I have to sit in a meeting that contains Ross and GuyWhoSpeaksUpAtEveryOpportunity. The rest of us understand that we want to get out of here ASAP, and unless we have specific questions about how to do our classes, it’s an unspoken agreement that we should just shut up and let the meeting end. The two aforementioned people don’t seem to get this, and we sit in that room for an hour listening to repetition and rambling. Nick asked Ross what book we should use for our class. Ross goes on a 10-minute ramble about books, and doesn’t answer the question, so Nick asks the question again. Ross goes on a 10-minute ramble about… books, and still isn’t very clear on his answer. Nick tries to ask if we can copy an entire book (say, Matthew, where we THINK Ross said to start) for them to read IN CLASS (because in the last 20 minutes, most of what we heard was that we could not send things home). Ross starts rambling again about not sending stuff home, so Nick interrupts him to amend his question with “Can we give them little sections, like verses, to use to study?” Ross goes on a 10-minute rant about translations, and is never clear on what he wants us to use.

As you can tell, most teachers/volunteers are becoming increasingly more unimpressed with Ross. We understand that he’s a busy guy, but he seems a bit to scattered and as if he never quite knows what’s going on.

So I FINALLY get out of this meeting, and the rule is that our lesson plans MUST be turned in by the end of the day, or we can’t leave. It is now 3:30 and hardly anyone has gotten more than one plan done. So we all go grumbling up the stairs. Jon has been waiting in my office for an hour and half, playing on the computer, but I make him stay there longer because I wanted to give Nick detailed notes on what to teach in earth science, because he honestly has no clue, and admitted that he’s no science teacher (but then, neither am I, but I at least like earth science, so it’s easier for me to show enthusiasm and share it than for him to scrounge some up and start from scratch – besides, he has the awesome task of creating curriculum for our Life of Christ class from absolutely nothing).

Shane doesn’t want to stick around waiting for the plans, however, so he yells at us from downstairs that we don’t have to turn them in until Friday night. We yell back down that none of us has internet at our apartments, and he responds that he’ll open the school on Saturday morning for us to use the internet and email our stuff in. This rather short conversation took forever because GuyWhoSpeaksUpAtEveryOpportunity keeps running around going “WHAT? WE CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOU! WHAT?” while we kept telling him to shut up so we could hear the rest of what Shane was saying.

I polish off the rest of my notes and a quiz in about 5 seconds, email everything out, and then pack up and Jon and I leave the school. We live down Shane’s way so we walked with him and had a nice chat. Apparently winter here gets painfully cold… and since there’s no central heating in the apartments, inside is often colder than outside. I asked “Cold enough that I should write my mother and ask her to sent my wool coat?” He said yes.


11th graders

They think they’re slick. They’re not. They’re already trying to get away with speaking Arabic in the class, which is against the rules. They do that Monday, they’re busted.

10th graders

I get the poor people at 8am, which means they’re still half asleep. They seem pretty cool… but you don’t get to really figure that out at 8am. This requires further study.

9th graders

The first day, I got them after they’d heard the rules 3 times already, and boy did I get an earful about what they thought was unfair. So I made them go over it again, told them that I couldn’t do anything about it but that they were welcome to discuss the rules with the office.

The second time I got them that day, we played hangman and I learned their names and favorite movies.

Thursday some of them had quieted down and were ready to be friends. Some of them were hell-on-wheels and I flat out told them that if they didn’t shut up (didn’t use those words, but it came across clearly) when I told them to, I had no problem with giving every person whose mouth was open a detention.

We’ll see if I need to follow through with that on Monday.

They’re enthusiastic, though, and I think that if I can crack down on the misbehavior early and become friends with some of the leaders in the class, we’ll do all right. They’d already started using their 5 minutes in-between classes to decorate their room, and they had extensive plans for it. There’s a lot in there. Just need to get them to behave.

8th graders

I LOVE MY 8TH GRADERS OMG. They’re enthusiastic about earth science when you tell them to be, they’re at the point where they automatically still think you’re cool and want to please you, and they’re just generally well-behaved. Their 5 minutes between class are spent leaning out their door to try and get my attention when I’m walking by so that they can talk to me for a few minutes. Very cute.


The first week was a general success. A lot of “I have no idea what’s going on” going around, but oh well.

I was flipping through the chemistry book the other day and was harshly reminded of how much I never GOT chemistry. This year could be very, very bad.

Earth science, though, I’m very excited about :D

1 comment:

  1. hehehe. i like your 8th graders already too. =P
    i love that you're a teacher. so funny.